Shortly after graduating with a music degree from ASU, Shelly O’Donin found herself living in New York City. There she decided to pursue another passion–a passion for food–and enrolled in the French Culinary Institute. She knew she wanted to work in a kitchen, but not one under the control of a tyrannical chef with an ego the size of a classic French cookbook. She wanted to work in a kitchen on her own terms, but was not quite sure where to find her niche.
An avid dog lover, Shelly had also been preparing homemade meals for her dogs rather than buying them store bought food. It wasn’t until relocating back to the Valley in 2010 when she moved into her Paradise Valley home already equipped with a professional-grade kitchen that it occurred to her that she may have been on the right path all along. And she founded Puppy Belly Deli.
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“I cook for my favorite customers, who are never going to complain,” jokes Chef Shelly.
Puppy Belly Deli offers three different meals for dogs, including a grain- and gluten-free option. Each meal is vacuum sealed and frozen, remaining fresh in the freezer for months. The company also has a selection of dog treats, including both all-natural chicken and all-natural beef jerky.
Everything that Puppy Belly Deli offers is completely USDA/FDA-certified for human consumption, and made with products sourced locally and organically whenever possible, including grass-fed beef; all-natural chicken without antibiotics, preservatives or hormones; and even hand-milled eggshell calcium powder and oat flour.
Inspired by companies such as Newman’s Own, Duchy Originals and Finnegan’s, Inc, Shelly modeled Puppy Belly Deli as a profit-donation business, with a desire to not only provide healthy meals and treats for dogs, but also to give back to local organizations who are helping find homes for and giving care to dogs in need.
“Every profit we get, above and beyond the cost of the ingredients, we give to animal rescues,” Shelly explains. “Every month we calculate what is left over, and we find an organization that is in need. An unexpected couple hundred dollars or so can really be a game changer for some of these organizations.”
Because 100 percent of the company’s profits are donated to charity, she is constantly inspired to maintain a low overhead, which means she continues to prepare everything out of her home kitchen, and is perfectly content as the company’s sole employee. That is not to say, however, that Chef Shelly is done pushing her company forward.
“My dream is to have some sort of food truck-type vehicle where I could go around to dog parks and different events and market one-on-one,” says Shelly. “I have always said that once a dog tastes the food, the owner will almost always say, ‘Wow, my dog usually doesn’t stand on their hind legs in front of the refrigerator.’ The products speak for themselves.”
Chef Shelly prefers to keep her company small so she can maximize what she donates each month. In her eyes, her business is already a success, as it has already achieved everything she envisioned for it back when she started. Through Puppy Belly Deli, Shelly does what she loves, while enables her to express her passion for pet nutrition and allows her to make a profit that she can give away to dogs in need.
Currently, Puppy Belly Deli products can be found around town at either Mackie’s Parlour in Scottsdale or at Noble Beast in Phoenix. Other information regarding Puppy Belly Deli, including a complete list of their products and ordering details, can be found by visiting their website at PuppyBellyDeli.com